About a month ago, I was on my lunch break at work when I bumped into a girl from my high school graduating class. In the midst of choosing a sandwich, I heard her voice behind me: "Michelle?"
It turns out she also left our small Pennsylvania town and (like me) works in the magazine industry. What's more, her office is a block away from mine. We never really knew each other in high school, but since this is such a strange coincidence we're planning to get together soon and swap stories (namely: how the hell did she end up in almost exactly the same place as I did?).
As if this blast from the past weren't enough, a long-gone ex-boyfriend of mine emailed me this week. The last time we spoke was probably four years ago, and since then I think he moved to Ohio to work in finance (I suppose I can ask him that if I return the email). He had found my blog online (hi Mr. Ex, if you're reading this…) and wanted to congratulate me.
This all reminded me of a saying my friend John has: "No one is ever really gone." He repeats this every time he gets an email from an old friend, or unexpectedly bumps into the first girl he ever held hands with in kindergarten. He also likes to recite it when a friend suddenly fades out of his life. Someday, in one way or another, he knows they'll be back.
I think of this whenever I come across someone from my past (like the girl from my hometown or my ex-boyfriend), but it can also be reassuring with current friends. "No one is ever really gone" is a short step from, "Never count someone out, because who knows what will happen in the future."
For example, that guy you've always had a crush on but the timing has never been right? It's pretty likely that, one day, something will work out. And that acquaintance you always love seeing but have never really made it into each other's day-to-day lives? Maybe someday you'll live in the same neighborhood and poof: instant friendship. No one's ever really gone.
I feel this way about Alex sometimes. I don't think he'll ever be back in a romantic way—we didn't work the first time, so there's no reason to believe we'd magically transform our relationship on another go-around. But even if our minimal contact now completely drops off, just as it did with my other, out-of-the-blue emailing ex, Alex will never really be gone.
In any case, it's a nice comfort to remember anything can happen. Thinking back on how many people who, after seemingly disappearing from my life, eventually wiggled their ways back in, I have a feeling Alex will pop his head up again somewhere. Maybe not as the star of the show, but at least on a guest appearance.